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Minna: Where ‘‘Raitas de len hau to spel?’’

bai Edwin Eriata Oribhabor, Naija Langwej Promoter, Abuja-Naijiria

When the Niger State branch of Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) announced that her programme, WRITERS’ SPELL, was to come up on 28th of January, 2012, a friend made the following remark; Wich won bi raitas spel? So raitas de len hau to spel tu? He wanted to know if the event was a workshop where potential writers would be taken through the rudiments of spellings. I couldn’t offer a concrete explanation because it was the first time I was coming across any information on the programme which I gathered, commenced last year. It was billed to feature Terfa Danjuma Nenga’s Pach-Pach Nika An Oda Puem-Dem; a collection of poems written in Naija Langwej; Nigeria’s un-official lingua franca. My friend, whose interest for the promotion, growth and development of the language is fast taking root, added that; as long as na puem fo Naija, man-pikin most go to Minna to si hau dem de len hau to spel. As a rider, I stated that, Notin go stop os to go to Minna. It is on this note that, I invite you to join me as I relieve activities that almost threatened the possibility of the planned event holding, my unshaken intention to attend, as well as my experiences visiting a state whose governor, Aliyu Babangida loves and promote arts, literature and creativity.

Before the widely advertised date of the programme, the air was soaked in palpable tension. Government had just welcomed Nigerians to year 2012 with the announcement of an increased pump price for PMS (Petrol). As expected, this was promptly greeted by widespread protests by Nigerians across the country with a firm call to government to revert to status quo. Buoyed by the complimentary activities of civil society groups and ‘‘Occupy Nigeria’’ demonstrations, the NLC and Nigerians were resolved on taking the protests to the next level. Stories of blasts of bombs and series of unpleasant developments ate up our peace and heightened insecurity nationwide. Notwithstanding, I looked forward with confidence to the forth-coming event in Minna. Therefore, when the Nigerian Labour Congress and government eventually reached a compromise, I was overwhelmed with joy.

On arrival at the state library complex venue of the event, I was treated to a grand reception, the type usually given to renown Writers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Mike Okri, Chimamanda Adiche, etc whose literary exploits truly qualify them for a heroes’ welcome anywhere. Is it because I am promoting Naija Langwej? The decision by ANA-Niger, to have me chair the event still beats my imagination. The hall was filled to capacity. Students of Government Secondary School (GSS) Minna performed an interesting play to set the tone for their mentor/host, Terfa Danjuma Nenga to read from his work.

A renown poetry performer and dancer, Terfa Danjuma Nenger read poems like,. It was a very lively session as critical comments/remarks on his work were given by different participants. A participant expressed fears over the growing usage of Naija Langwej (Nigerian Pidgin) and its negative consequences for the English language. The current General Secretary of the Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA), B.M. Dzukogi rose in defence of Naija Langwej and spoke extensively on the need for it to be strengthened alongside our various indigenous languages in Nigeria. He stated that, its usage in formal settings should not only be given a fillip, but deserves government recognition. While advancing their respective views regarding the efficacy in message delivery using Naija Langwej in literature, poetry and poetry performance in general, other participants lend their voices to Dzukogi’s. As the Chairman of the occasion, and one already in the vanguard of the promotion of Naija, I concurred.

The WRITERS’ SPELL offers an opportunity for the cross-fertilisation of ideas between young and old writers as well as literary enthusiasts. A strong force behind Professor Remi Raji’s election as the current President of ANA, the Niger state branch’s fifth edition of WRITERS’ SPELL testifies to the vibrancy of literary activities in the state. The event, like most literary shows, is capable of bringing one out of whatever spell one may have been into literary-wise. The critique of works of both established and upcoming writers generally help in repositioning their efforts in making them better products for the literary market. Apart from the General Secretary of ANA (B.M. Zdukogi), other literary personalities that graced the occasion and made worthy contributions were; Mallam Mahmoud (current Chairman of ANA Niger), Karma Hamza, Muhib Aslu, Nsubong, Paul T. Liam etc. It was a highly successful event.

Credited for performing live at the 2009 edition of NAFEST, Terfa Danjuma Nenger, a performance poet, also performed alongside others at the first Aliyu Babangida’s Literary Colloquium which held in Minna last year. The fifth edition of ANA Niger’s WRITERS’ SPELL was more than a SPELL. It relieved memories of the late Mamman Jiya Vatsa’s Tori For Geti Bow Leg (1985) rendered in pidgin English. Fo Raita Spel, pipul go luuk wetin yu rait, an tel yu hau i sopoz bi. ANA Niger, una du wel. Naija fo laif.

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